September 10, 2020

Fisherman's Cove

From South to North Fisherman’s Cove is the second of four very popular dive sites located in quick succession north of the main street beach and just north of Heisler Park in the seaside town of Laguna Beach, California. I have been to this site many times and I was back with my son, Spencer, on September 7th, 2020. The skies were thickly overcast, and it very briefly rained, the air was a bit humid, but the air temperature was pleasant. Our dive was shallow with the deepest point of our 53-minute dive about 25 feet.

This was the Monday of Labor Day weekend and we were just coming off two great dives at Anacapa Island, see my journal post of September 9, 2020: Anacapa Island – The Landing. Spencer and I were of the same mindset, we love diving, we always want to go diving, but this dive was going to be a letdown after the great trip out to Anacapa just two days prior. Wow! We could not have been more wrong. For only the second time in my approximately 200 dives in Southern California we saw a sea turtle!! Very, very exciting. Check out the pictures associated with this journal post.

This dive turned out to be significant for a second, totally unexpected reason. In the associated pictures you can see that I took a photo of an orange mass. What is this orange mass? I thoroughly enjoy posting my photographs to the INaturalist website. However, I don’t like it when my contribution is left in the status of “Needs ID”. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why I dislike the “Needs ID” status, but most basically I feel like I am being ignored, somebody out there knows what it is but just won’t take the time to tell me. I also feel like something is being left undone. I must also acknowledge that I have suffered from a lifelong need for validation.

With all of this in mind, and with Spencer’s help, we looked over the INaturalist website to identify the orange mass through simple comparisons. After some searching and comparing, I settled on “Chain Tunicate” as the best identification. I reached out to a frequent identifier and asked for confirmation of my ID. The response was noncommittal but, in her estimation, my proposed identification “appeared correct.” Still left in the status of “Needs ID” I reached out to a second identifier who gave a very technical response with a suggested identification of “mushroom tunicate”, his suggested identification came with a second suggestion which was to reach out to a third identifier. Admittedly I was out of my league with respect to understanding the technical explanation that was given to me but I was certainly persuaded that “mushroom tunicate” was the correct ID and I thus agreed with the suggested ID of mushroom tunicate. My agreement brought my photograph of the orange mass out of the lowly depths of “Needs ID” to the venerated status of “research grade”.

Naturally I agreed to the “mushroom tunicate” suggested identification before hearing back from the third identifier, who naturally disagreed with the suggested ID of “mushroom tunicate”. Most importantly, and where this saga really begins, is that the third identifier politely scolded me for agreeing with the suggested ID of “mushroom tunicate” when I admittedly had no idea of what I was talking about.

Wow – now what? Questions, questions. How can I become a more responsible participant and contributor to the INaturalist website? How do I “up my game” to be technically competent? And most alarmingly, how do I get comfortable with the status of “needs ID”? I mean after all, this quest started when the image on my photograph needed ID. Now I as whole being am in “Needs ID” status. Answers to these questions will be a work in progress -- yes more journal posts in the future.

Be sure of one thing, the green sea turtle, if that is what it really was, was very cool.

Posted on September 10, 2020 06:12 PM by darrellsdives darrellsdives | 17 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Anacapa Island - The Landing

What a treat – a trip out to Anacapa Island -Labor Day weekend 2020 and the whole dive crew was in on the trip, my wife Barbara along with our sons Trevor and Spencer. The previous summer Spencer and I spent three days camping on Anacapa – with kayaks? We did not bring any dive gear??

On the Wednesday that we were out there camping/kayaking the National Park Service came to the island in their big boat. The purpose of their visit was to conduct their weekly live dive telecast, an educational program for elementary schools located on the mainland. On an Island with no electricity or running water the live dive telecast was of extremely high entertainment value. The Park Service crew were very engaging and happy to share their dive experiences at this location. The bottom-line consensus of the Park Services divers - the Anacapa Landing offers some of the very best diving in the Channel Islands. It has taken me a year to get back here for the diving.

Labor Day weekend 2020 set record high temperatures throughout the State of California. On the day that we were on Anacapa a 104-degree temperature was predicted for Avalon over on Catalina Island. We traveled to Anacapa from Ventura Harbor by way of the Island Packers charter service, a 1-hour boat ride over calm ocean water. After disembarking we immediately suited up and got ready for our first dive. The landing is physically located approximately 10 to 12 feet over the water, that calls for one giant step. It was a beautiful sunny Southern California morning; the air temperature was already getting warm and the water temperature was refreshing and very pleasant when we entered the water around noontime.

On the boat ride over to the Island the boat captain gives a bit of nature talk about the Island over the boat’s intercom. He explained that Anacapa Island Is a volcanic island, not like Hawaii, but rather shaped by plate tectonics. The result of the action of those plate tectonics is that this tiny little Island is nothing more than sheer rock cliffs coming out of the ocean. On our first dive, after the giant step, we left the cove and headed to the right. We spent the entire dive on a sheer rock wall that I estimate to be between 30 to 40 feet tall. On the Second dive we headed to the left to be immersed in an incredibly thick kelp forest. The diving was spectacular with viability at 40 to 50 feet. Check out the accompanying photographs.

As an added bonus, we encountered a humpback whale on the way back to the harbor.

Posted on September 10, 2020 04:15 AM by darrellsdives darrellsdives | 27 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 30, 2020

The Canyon - La Jolla

Diving the “Canyon” is a very different type of Southern California dive experience. To get to the dive site you can proceed to the parking lot adjacent to Kellogg Park located in the San Diego community of La Jolla. I have been to this site many times and on August 30, 2020, along with my son Spencer, we were back to do it again. It was another beautiful Southern California morning; the air temperature was in the high 60's and the surface water temperature was between 66-70 degrees. The skies were clear and sunny, and we started our 57-minute dive at about 9am. The canyon is a deep dive site and we proceeded on this trip down to a depth of 56 feet at our deepest.
This is a very popular spot for divers, especially for those going through any kind of training, class or certification. Today’s conditions showcased why, the ocean water was almost “lake like” calm, there was no surge or rip tide and the visibility was somewhere between 15 to 25 feet. There were many divers present and several classes in progress. The only real challenge to taking good photos is the sandy bottom which can be easily stirred up.
As my Son and I were suiting up in the park, we could overhear other divers talking about their “great” dive that they had just completed. One young lady was going on and on about the “seahorse” that she had seen. I have always wanted to spot a seahorse but have never been so lucky. I asked her about her sighting and she excitedly explained that the “seahorse was in 6 to 8 feet of water, all alone over a sandy bottom.” None of this description fit with my preconceived notion of where I might eventually spot a seahorse. She sheepishly explained that she wasn’t able to take a photograph of her sighting but hoped that she would be able to identify the specific species of seahorse when she got home and consulted her reference materials.

With this “excitement” in the air my Son and I proceeded to the shoreline. Another attribute of this dive spot that favors class instruction is that it is an entirely sandy bottom, there are no rocks, kelp or sea grass at all. While maybe good for classroom instruction, this attribute dampens the enthusiasm of many experienced divers from diving this site because it is “boring” – almost a moonscape. However, as the accompanying photos attest, this moonscape is full of life; rays, sea pens, nudibranchs, sea stars, sea pansies, anemones and many others.
As you travel over this moonscape on a heading of 2700 you are on your way to the La Jolla canyon that is located approximately 300 yards from the shoreline. I don’t personally know of any divers that have traveled over the edge of the canyon wall and found it to be boring. As you approach the canyon wall the water becomes dark, foreboding and still. The water is deeper, much deeper, and colder, much colder.
When we started our day my hope for this dive was that we would see striped nudibranchs and a California Sea Hare. We had seen both of these species on prior dives and on this trip, we were not disappointed – we had success on both counts. And as an added bonus we spotted a spectacularly beautiful corymorpha palma.
Now about those seahorses! No, we did not see a seahorse, but as we left the canyon and started back to the shoreline over the moonscape, we came across 5, five, pipefish. Each was alone over a sandy bottom. I am not sure what reference materials she is consulting about seahorses, but I can tell you that seeing five different pipefish on one dive is pretty darn cool.

Posted on August 30, 2020 10:33 PM by darrellsdives darrellsdives | 14 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment


The rockpile is a dive site located just north of the main street beach in the seaside town of Laguna Beach, California. I dove with my son, Spencer, for the first time at this site on August 29, 2020. It was a beautiful Southern California morning, the air temperature was in the high 60's and the surface water temperature was reported by the lifeguards as 66-70 degrees. The skies were overcast when we started the dive at about 9am but the sunlight came through towards the end of the dive which lasted 54 minutes. A shallow dive site the deepest point of our dive was 20 feet.

Most of the dive sites in Laguna Beach have one thing in common - Stairs. We parked on Cliff Drive at Heisler Park, a popular cliffside municipal park overlooking the ocean. We suited up at the car made our way across the park and down the stairs. This dive site is highlighted by a rock that emerges out of the water about 200 yards from the shoreline, once in the water we kicked out to the rock. The rockpile is popular with surfers, so much so divers are not allowed to go into the surf at this location after 10am. Surfers favor this location because of the waves generated by the rock formations. The same waves can challenge the diver. At our shallow dive depth the wave surge was moving us around forcibly as well as stirring up particulate in the water. Bottom line - photography was challenging.

At the site we spotted numerous Panamic Christmas Tree worms. I think these are some of the prettiest things you can see on a local dive. And for second time I spotted the mystery nudibranch! This particular nudibranch has so far evaded sufficient identification so as to warrant a "research grade" classification. This particular nudibranch was tiny and the accompanying photographs are marginally acceptable - certainly not stellar. This site also features numerous large California Sheepshead whom I assume are well fed by divers. They are aggressive and act in a way that they seem to be demanding that you feed them, which I did not. So I paid. One pecked at my head, another at my hand and yet another at my camera. One of these perpetrators has been identified in the accompanying photographs. They seem to know that they are dwelling in a no-take marine park, a fact of which they take full advantage.

The dive done, we stopped and got a bagel in Laguna Beach. Everything bagel, toasted, with plain cream cheese, a slice of tomato and a dash of lemon pepper. Very good.

Spencer is a great dive partner but has terrible taste in bagels - Jalapeno Cheddar?

Posted on August 30, 2020 04:40 AM by darrellsdives darrellsdives | 13 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment


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